Coldstream contamination case spotlights local government liability

Warning for Okanagan water users after fines levied against regional district and municipality over water contamination

Okanagan water suppliers are being warned to learn from a contamination case.

Okanagan Basin Water Board officials have been briefed on the 2010 contamination of the Antwerp Springs well in Coldstream and the Regional District of North Okanagan subsequently being found guilty on a variety of charges and being fined $18,540.

“It’s an issue that could be relevant to other local governments,” said Anna Warwick Sears, OBWB executive director.

“There is a concern about liability and what due diligence you need to do beforehand.”

On Jan. 13, 2010, the North Okanagan endured heavy rains. The ground was still frozen and significant flooding occurred in many areas. In the case of Antwerp Springs, manure from an adjacent pasture was washed into a shallow well, causing contamination and forcing thousands of people off the source.

Two-and-a-half years later, RDNO was charged with operating a well in a manner to cause adverse impact, introducing foreign matter into a well, allowing contamination of drinking water and failing to provide potable water.

“We were operating the well in complete agreement with Interior Health,” said Zee Marcolin, Greater Vernon Water manager.

“We felt we were operating the well in the best possible way. The well had never experienced any (quality) advisory and it was better quality water than surface water.”

Despite RDNO’s confidence, the court disagreed and the district was found guilty and sentenced on all charges in January 2014.

“There are tons of lessons to be learned,” said Marcolin, adding that all water utilities should review recommendations from consultants’ reports and ensure there is a paper-trail when it comes to actions taken.

“Don’t put the reports on shelves. Identify why you are not doing something with it.”

Marcolin also cautioned OBWB directors that they carry significant liabilities but have no authority when it comes to some matters.

“Manure spreading occurs but you can’t do anything about it,” she said.

“Legislation says you must put in filtration but if you go for voter assent and the voters say no, what do we do?”

Another factor no one has control over is extreme weather such as the 2010 rain storm.

“These events are coming up more and more,” said Marcolin.

During her presentation, Marcolin pointed out that some old drainage and irrigation pipes were located and their existence didn’t show up in any files, but Greater Vernon Water was still held responsible for them. That raised concerns around the OBWB table.

“There is hidden stuff people don’t know about and if this is replicated in other places, it’s worrisome,” said director Keith Fielding.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Vernon Public Art Gallery's new Regional Reach program which sends supplies and lessons to classes, has been a hit in the North Okanagan classrooms. (VPAG photo)
Travelling art kit a hit in North Okanagan schools

Art Gallery’s new Regional Reach program delivers art education to the classrooms

A kaleidescope of colours was captured over Lake Country Sunday, Feb. 28. (Wendey Innes-Shaw photo)
Colourful close to month with North Okanagan sunset

From all angles: Vernon and Lake Country photographers capture sunset Feb. 28

The Okanagan Screen Arts Society is set to take over Vernon’s historic Towne Cinema on 30th Avenue June 1 as fundraising for building upgrades is a third of the way to its goal. (Photo contributed)
Historic Vernon cinema rolling into society’s hands

Okanagan Screen Arts Society will take over and run with volunteers the Towne Cinema starting June 1

(File photo)
UBCO introduces another reading break in November

The break only affects the Okanagan campus

A student from Dawson Creek is the winner of Tolko’s Orange Shirt Day design contest for 2021. (Tolko photo)
Vernon-based Tolko contest features northern winner

Student from Dawson Creek beats out entries Canadawide for Orange Shirt Day design contest win

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Pastafarian Gary Smith, pictured here dressed as a pirate, wanted to wear his tricorn (also pictured here) in his driver’s licence photo, arguing that the display was a religious observance. Photo: Facebook
B.C. Pastafarian loses Supreme Court fight to wear pirate hat in driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith of Grand Forks, put his case to the Supreme Court in Rossland in early February

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

City council passed resolution in support of an expansion of the licence area at Salmon Arm’s Marionette Winery for the inclusion of a lounge area. (Marionette Winery/Facebook)
Salmon Arm council supports lounge addition at Shuswap winery

Marionette Winery expanding licence area to host small gatherings

An injured skier was helivaced from Apex Mountain Resort to Kelowna General Hospital Monday, March, 2021. (Linda Geggie / Facebook)
Injured skier helivaced from Apex Mountain Resort

The skier was taken to Kelowna General Hospital

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Most Read